The Gospel on Sunday, the 5th Sunday of Lent, shows the tragedy of failure in faithfulness in love.
That faithlessness is instanced in the woman taken in adultery. It is instanced in the scribes and Pharisees who objectify and demean this daughter of Israel: the scribes and Pharisees, who knowing their sin slink away, from Jesus, from the Temple, from God.
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At daybreak he appeared in the Temple again; and as all the people came to him, he sat down and began to teach them.
The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman along who had been caught committing adultery; and making her stand there in full view of everybody, they said to Jesus, ‘Master, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery, and Moses has ordered us in the Law to condemn women like this to death by stoning. What have you to say?’ They asked him this as a test, looking for something to use against him. But Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with his finger. As they persisted with their question, he looked up and said, ‘If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Then he bent down and wrote on the ground again. When they heard this they went away one by one, beginning with the eldest, until Jesus was left alone with the woman, who remained standing there. He looked up and said, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir’ she replied. ‘Neither do I condemn you,’ said Jesus ‘go away, and do not sin any more.’
Jesus sets the woman free. There is no condemnation, though the sin is acknowledged and surely regretted by her. Surely she now knows her sin for what it is. But her sin and misery is met by the Lord: she receives from him: there is mercy, compassion and a strong encouragement, help, to the good.
In the Book of Exodus God writes the tablets of Testimony (the ’10 Commandments’) with his finger. Israel is unfaithful and the first tablets are broken.
Here Israel is unfaithful and again neglects what God writes on the stone of the Temple floor – surely, like the 10 Commandments, words to unite us with each other and with him. ple floor.
Well, the Temple is gone. Now the Lord seeks to write his law of love in every human heart.
Will we read it there? And will we do – more generously, bravely, and faithfully – what he writes, commands, and he, himself, does/is.
Commandments Board, Parish church, Diss. (c) 2011, Allen Morris.